Thursday, April 06, 2006

VNRs Rear Their Ugly Heads (Again)

David Barstow reports from the New York Times on the bald propaganda that continues to infect our airwaves:
Many television news stations, including some from the nation's largest markets, are continuing to broadcast reports as news without disclosing that the segments were produced by corporations pitching new products, according to a report to be released today by a group that monitors the news media.

Television news directors have said that the segments, known as video news releases, are almost never broadcast, but the group assembled television videotape from 69 stations that it said had broadcast fake news segments in the past 10 months.

The new report was prepared by the Center for Media and Democracy, which is based in Wisconsin and which describes itself as dedicated to "exposing public relations spin and propaganda."

The report said none of the stations had disclosed that the segments were produced by publicists representing companies like General Motors, Capital One and Pfizer.

The center also said that many of the 69 stations took steps to blend the fake segments into their news broadcasts. Some had their news reporters or anchors read scripts supplied by corporations, the report said, and many had altered screen graphics to include the station's logo.

The report said that a few stations had introduced publicists as if they were their on-air reporters. Only a handful of stations added any independently gathered information or videotape, it said.
The Federal Communications Commission has levied over $11.5 million in indecency fines under the leaderships of the current and former chairmen (Kevin Martin and Michael Powell, respectively). But my best efforts have failed to turn up a single case of a TV station having been punished for broadcasting VNRs unattributed, despite the FCC's lofty public proclamations against the rank impropriety of "fake TV news" and despite the fact that VNRs have been running on both broadcast and cable since the early 90s. Perhaps we should pity the poor agency: after all, when you spend all day fielding correspondence from the one gang of whiners that files 99.8% of FCC complaints, actually fulfilling your mandate to protect the public from truly insidious influence must lose a bit of its luster. Arghhh . . .